Truth of it, I was big as those Boys
barely into long pants.
My hair was short cut.
The recruitment man didn’t bat an eye
when I stretched my nineteen years
to twenty-one; he was mighty glad
to have Lyons Wakeman sign up.
The only ones ever caught on
were the women like me—bound
and determined to reap the rewards of soldiering.
That 100 and 52 $ in money I got for enlisting
was more than I ever did make at one time.
Leaving home, I figured to be a lot more help
than staying on the farm Pining for some man
to marry me. In this regiment,
I was independent as a hog on ice.
I traveled to the united states capitol
and been inside of it. You better believe
it is a pretty place.
I have got So that I Can drill just as well
as any man there is in my regiment.
For my part… I think a Skirmish drill
is the prettiest drill that ever was drill.
We was on water for nine days
on the Steam Ship Mississippi
coming to this state of Louisiana.
Then we marched near seven hundred miles
through Rebel country. Rations hard
to come by, we drunk swamp water.
We was in that Battle of Pleasant Hill
which I can report was not pleasant.
Still, I liked to be a soldier very well. I only wish
I’d been shot dead on the field of battle
rather than suffer this accursed dysentery.
I am feared it will be the death of me.
In the month of June, 1864
Note: Italicized language is taken from An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, 1862-1864.
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In the process of completing a manuscript of poems in women’s voices Susan J. Erickson has assumed the persona of Lucy Audubon, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keeffe, Emily Dickinson and others. Her poems appear in 2River View, Crab Creek Review, Museum of Americana, The Fourth River, Hamilton Stone Review, Naugatuck River Review and in anthologies including Malala: Poems for Malala Yousafzai. Susan lives in Bellingham, Washington where she helped establish the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Walk and Contest.